About Always Icecream
Always Icecream is a learn and play platform for young girls. Under the leadership of Dr. Johannes and Swenja Ziegler, parents of five, a team of educational experts including teachers, academics, and homeschooling parents, developed the "learn with fun" concept of Always Icecream.
Meet Our Founders
Dr. Johannes & Mrs. Swenja Ziegler
Swenja and Johannes studied at leading universities in Europe, the US, and Asia, including Stanford University, Tsinghua University in Beijing and the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. They enjoy teaching their five children and working with an international team to create innovative forms of online and app-based learning. Swenja teaches piano and both Swenja and Johannes are active in the leadership at their local church.
Mr. Stefan Petry & Ms. Elizabeth Tse
Elizabeth and Stefan are raising a son and a puppy in the San Francisco Bay Area. Elizabeth grew up in a large family that valued education highly. She holds degrees from Yale and Cornell and is an advisor to the company. Stefan grew up in Europe where he worked with special needs children. He has a degree from Stanford University and works in marketing and product management.
Mr. David Hansen & Ms. Kjersti Bogaard
Kjersti and David raised two children and are now the proud grandparents of four girls. Kjersti has a teaching degree from Norway, with a specialty in early childhood education. Both in Europe and California, she has taught preschool and kindergarten, managed day care centers, and operated after school programs. David, UC Berkeley MBA and the son of two teachers, has been served education as a dinner topic his whole life.
More Team Members
Dr. Julian Rüth - CTO
Julian is the Chief Technology Officer of Always Icecream. He has master's degrees in Computer Science and Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Arithmetic Geometry. In high school, he won the German Federal Computer Science Competition and he continues to compete successfully at national and international computer science competitions. He has taught throughout his life, spending five years as the leader of a church youth group and later teaching mathematics to university students.
Daniel Ziegler - Technical Advisor
Daniel, son of the founders, works as a technical advisor for Always Icecream. He has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Computer Science from MIT and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. at Stanford University. He was homeschooled during middle school, which enabled him to develop his programming skills at an early age. As a high schooler, Daniel represented the United States at the 2012 International Olympiad in Informatics. He is excited about the opportunity to use technology to give a better education to young students.
Tobias Ziegler - UX Researcher
Tobias Ziegler comes from a background in Math and Psychology and specializes in UX Research and Design. At Miaplaza he conducts customer research, runs customer interviews and surveys, and organizes user tests to uncover the needs of the customers, and uses that knowledge to inform product decisions. In his spare time, you will find Tobias in a climbing gym, trail running in the Sierra Nevada mountains, annoying family and neighbors alike with his drum set, and frequently starting new projects and endeavors.
Susannah Skyer Gupta - Product Manager
Susannah Skyer Gupta combines the best of both worlds: prior to being a homeschool and classroom educator with a special focus on gifted education, Susannah spent many years in the software industry in the UK and Silicon Valley. She has a special interest in bringing great online learning to students using iPads and iPhones and enjoys working on our extensive line of iOS apps, including Geo Touch and Bible Challenge Quiz. Susannah is currently based in Chicago, IL, USA and has a Master's degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as a number of tech industry awards and certifications.
Ashley Newman - Head of Content
Ashley, a homeschool mom of three, has a passion for learning and education. She began developing content with Miaplaza in 2016. Ashley holds teaching certifications in Special Education (Early Childhood - Grade 12), and Generalist (Grades 4-8). She has a B.S.I.S. in Special Education, and a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction. She began her homeschooling journey in 2012. Prior to that, she taught special education classes and groups in both inclusion and self-contained settings for five years, working with students of all ages and ability levels. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors in the beautiful Ozark Mountains, and settling down for family movie nights with popcorn.
Heidi Strawser - Community Manager
Heidi is a long-time homeschool mom of 3. She has worked in various settings in the homeschool community, including serving as an author and Special Projects Manager for a popular homeschool magazine and owning and operating a popular website devoted to serving homeschoolers. She has also traveled around the nation to work for various curriculum publishers at homeschool conventions. Born and raised in central PA, she dreams of life in sunny Florida. In her spare time, you'll find her reading a book, drinking a good cup of tea, and spending time with her new grandson!
Ashley Reichert - Community Manager
Ashley Reichert is a homeschool graduate, married mother of one who lives in Central PA. She has worked with children in many capacities over the years including nannying, working at a daycare, and babysitting out of her home. She’s currently a stay-at-home mom to her son, Everett, and loves every second. If she’s not holding her son or working, you can find her going on walks and bike rides with her husband or reading a good book.
Jodi Whisenhunt - Community Manager
Jodi Whisenhunt is an award-winning freelance writer and editor whose works have appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, and online publications. A 17-year homeschooling veteran, Jodi is the owner and feature writer of the highly acclaimed Magical Mouse Schoolhouse website (and book by the same title), where she helps kids and their parents think outside the textbook and learn while they play, applying the magic of Walt Disney entertainment to creative homeschool lessons.
Denice Gustafson - Community Manager
Denice and her husband, a retired Air Force veteran, have homeschooled their five children (7 to 27) for 20 years. She has authored works that have been in a published book, magazines and online. She worked as a Senior Ad Sales Rep for a well-known homeschool magazine, taught piano lessons, owned a small business, and held the position of Communications Coordinator for a large organization. She advocates for adoption (two of her children were born in Kazakhstan and Taiwan) and has had many speaking engagements on the topic.
Sabrina Gustafson - Process Management
Sabrina grew up in a small business family and was taught customer service skills at a young age. She has an associate’s degree in Accounting and has a partial degree in small business entrepreneurship. As a mom of two young boys she is just beginning to homeschool. She has a passion for helping people and homeschooling. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors and exploring beautiful Idaho.
Marissa Walker - Release Management
Marissa has spent several years working in the customer service industry. The daughter of an elementary school teacher, she was raised with a passion for education. After high school, she spent time volunteering in both the Middle East and the UK, where she worked with children teaching in classes and at after school clubs. In her spare time, you can find her outside exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their three dogs, Peaches, Bailey, and Dolly.
Kelsey Potter - Customer Service
Kelsey has always been passionate about education. After studying Elementary Education at Brigham Young University, she continued learning about and educating children. She served as an ESL teacher for Chinese students for many years. After getting married, she moved to Arizona and now uses her knowledge to help educate her 5 children through homeschooling while living a simple, homestead lifestyle. She finds that travel is one of her favorite ways to enrich her purposeful and simple life.
Yaela Marks - Customer Service
Yaela has a Bachelor’s in Business Management and a Master’s degree in Instructional System Design. Between her two degrees, she gained experience in customer service and human resources. She also spent several years creating training for the defense industry. She left that position to pursue other interests related to education and training, in addition to raising her now 9-year-old daughter. She is passionate about finding effective methods for students of all ages to learn and grow. A native of Florida, Yaela enjoys reading, spending time in nature, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Danielle Foltz - Scriptwriter
Danielle holds a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana Baptist University and has served in a variety of education and humanitarian roles, which included 2 years assisting in programs for women and children in Tanzania, East Africa. She’s been devoted to caregiving and home educating all 3 of her children since her youngest was born with a rare and aggressive form of epilepsy. She is passionate about respecting the personhood of each child for who they are and is focused on providing multisensory learning opportunities. Danielle loves to surprise people by speaking KiSwahili, as she and her husband have retained fluency.
Gabriella Volpe - Scriptwriter
Gabriella is a homeschooling mother of a child born with a chromosomal disorder, a certified teacher trained at McGill University in Montreal , Canada, and a homeschool consultant for families of children with special needs. She worked for 16+ years in the inclusive classroom with children of all abilities. She is particularly passionate about speech, language, and literacy development in children. As she helps her own son learn to communicate, she is also acquiring the fundamentals of ASL.
Megan Ward - Scriptwriter
Megan Ward has a Bachelors in Science for Special Education and Elementary Education and Masters Coursework in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Behavioral Disorders. She has taught all grade levels from preschool to highschool in the classroom, and has experience with one-on-one tutoring and homeschooling her own children. Besides her interests in Special Education, exercise, and nutrition, she loves hiking. She finds nothing more reviving than spending time in nature with her family. When inside, she likes to create and paint, which lends designing creative and imaginative learning tools for growing minds.
Susan Koehler - Scriptwriter
Susan Koehler enjoys a rich history as an educator. She has a master’s degree in reading education, and has 36 years of experience teaching at a variety of grade levels. She was named Leon County Teacher of the Year (Leon County, Florida) in 2004 and was the 2005 recipient of the State of Florida’s Mary Brogan Award for Excellence in Literacy Education. Susan is the author of four professional resources for teachers and six books for young readers. Her novel, Dahlia in Bloom, received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews. Her next novel launches in August of 2021.
Thomas Moran - Scriptwriter
Thomas is a career learner and educator. After pursuing degrees in History, Political Science, Theatre, and Creative Writing, he combined those interests to conduct a graduate study in Theatre History. He’s currently a Master of Fine Arts candidate in Creative Writing and is evaluating program options for PhD research in writing pedagogy. He is a published and produced playwright and experienced instructor of mathematics, history, and theatre. He serves as a genre editor for two literary journals and a judge for the Arkansas Young Playwrights Competition. He still plays with LEGOs and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kaeleigh Reynolds - Scriptwriter & Actor
Kaeleigh is a scientist by training! She has a B.S. in Physics and has spent a total of 3 years working for NASA on research projects on Active Galactic Nuclei (supermassive blackholes) and the gamma-rays they emit. She no longer works for NASA, but she keeps up with the research they are doing on supermassive blackholes. When she’s not writing curriculum, she loves to snow ski, water ski, and trail run long distances with her Husky, Luca. She also loves to read. She even writes book reviews to help her remember what she has read and recommend books to her friends!
Susan Ring - Scriptwriter
With a degree in music education, Susan had a brief stint teaching middle school music before she began her career in the entertainment industry. She has written for Nickelodeon, NOVA, CBS, National Geographic, and Hasbro. She has been published by Disney, Scholastic, DK, Pearson Learning, Steck-Vaughn, and Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt, among others. Her projects have received numerous awards, including an Emmy, Parents' Choice, iParenting, and Dr. Toy Awards. Susan can often be found riding her bike (with her bird hitching a ride), hiking with her dogs, or attempting to create a decent watercolor painting.
Justin Jager - Actor
Justin Jager has spent the better part of his life performing, going from studying theatre at the Regional Center for the Arts in Trumbull, CT, to graduating with a BFA in Acting at the University of Connecticut. He’s also no stranger to childhood education. He spent many years tutoring for grades K-8 (both on- and offline), as well as being a camp counselor and educator for the Summer Institute for the Gifted in Princeton, NJ. More recently, Justin has moved to New York City, where he can easily record videos from his own apartment studio.
Jesse Bisceglia - Scriptwriter & Actor
Jesse has earned two master’s degrees in teaching and has always included his passion for creating music into his teaching. He has seen his many educational songs and videos aid in student learning in a dynamic way. He was even able to write and star in an educational stage show which toured the US. He lives in NY and enjoys creating music and videos from his home studio. Usually it’s a one man operation, but sometimes his 6-year-old son, Sam, joins the action. Sam’s frequent requests of “let’s make a video” are rarely turned down.
Kelsey Brannon - Marketing Manager
Kelsey earned a Bachelor’s in marketing and has been working in Marketing and Social Media for 4 years. Through her work with start-ups, nonprofits and solopreneurs, she has developed a specialization in customer experience and social media, particularly Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. When she isn’t learning about the latest marketing trends, she’s usually traveling in her RV or hiking on nearby trails with her golden retriever, Atlas.
The founders, pictured above, were educated at top schools in Europe, Asia, and the United States. This fostered their love of learning that they want to share with the next generation of young learners.

Having tried numerous educational sites for their own children, they couldn't find any that combine safety, fun, educational value and wholesome peer-to-peer interaction. This was when the idea for Always Icecream (girls), Clever Dragons (boys), and Miacademy (boys and girls) was born.

A large international team worked on the development of Always Icecream, Clever Dragons, and Miacademy. Stefan Petry (co-founder, COO) and Tobias Bielenstein (Communications) contributed not only with their professional insights, but also as fathers. David Hansen (co-founder, Marketing) shared his experience as a father and grandfather.

Today our team includes more than thirty contributors with a broad set of expertise. In addition to the team members listed above, Bibi Marcos has played an important role in shaping our sites. After attending international schools across many countries, Bibi joined our team while studying psychology. Since then she has gained two graduate degrees and launched educational projects in Europe and Africa. She also worked on the graphics concept and illustrations with the gifted , Nora Brandt, Arik Hohmeyer, Bastian Langguth, and Alejandra Robles.

The software developers team led by Dr. Julian Rüth includes many award winners of national and international software developers contests. Key contributors to the site are Solomiia Demkiv, Christian Borkenhagen, Johannes Krupp, Tim Bachmann, Robert Hemstedt, Britta Heymann, Jens Wischnewsky, Leonard Kleinhans,Tilmann Bihler, Mirko Speth, Arne Boockmeyer, Lukas Fritzsche, Florian Behrens, and Daniel Ziegler.

However, members are probably most familiar with Grace, Kiley, Rebecca, Alyssa, Swenja, and Maya, the people presenting our popular educational videos. Not visible on the screen, but no less important, is the role of Tobias Ziegler, son of the founders, who developed the format and edits our videos.

Always Icecream is operated by Miaplaza Inc., an internet software development company located in Silicon Valley.